Context: Ozone has been associated with various adverse health effects, including increased rates of hospital admissions and exacerbation of respiratory illnesses. Although numerous time-series studies have estimated associations between day-to-day variation in ozone levels and mortality counts, results have been inconclusive.
Objective: To investigate whether short-term (daily and weekly) exposure to ambient ozone is associated with mortality in the United States.
Design and setting: Using analytical methods and databases developed for the National Morbidity, Mortality, and Air Pollution Study, we estimated a national average relative rate of mortality associated with short-term exposure to ambient ozone for 95 large US urban communities from 1987-2000. We used distributed-lag models for estimating community-specific relative rates of mortality adjusted for time-varying confounders (particulate matter, weather, seasonality, and long-term trends) and hierarchical models for combining relative rates across communities to estimate a national average relative rate, taking into account spatial heterogeneity.
Main outcome measure: Daily counts of total non-injury-related mortality and cardiovascular and respiratory mortality in 95 large US communities during a 14-year period.
Results: A 10-ppb increase in the previous week's ozone was associated with a 0.52% increase in daily mortality (95% posterior interval [PI], 0.27%-0.77%) and a 0.64% increase in cardiovascular and respiratory mortality (95% PI, 0.31%-0.98%). Effect estimates for aggregate ozone during the previous week were larger than for models considering only a single day's exposure. Results were robust to adjustment for particulate matter, weather, seasonality, and long-term trends.
Conclusions: These results indicate a statistically significant association between short-term changes in ozone and mortality on average for 95 large US urban communities, which include about 40% of the total US population. The findings indicate that this widespread pollutant adversely affects public health.